Editor's note: By an anonymous reader's request, we reprint the following Eagle story.
Guns and butter is one way to describe America's current war footing. On the homefront, many citizens continue normal lives (the butter part) seemingly oblivious to America's volunteer military in harm's way on the frontlines of the War on Terrorism. And there are others protesting the war's mission, the president, or America's globe-girdling commercial and military interests. Today's situation is more akin to the ignominious Vietnam era-a far cry from the unified homefront displayed at other moments of crisis in the nation's past.
But for a lot of family members with sons and daughters-even husbands and wives-in uniform, the current war (really a post-war action) is an honorable cause; it is also a daily reminder of the challenges faced by loved ones in strange and violent places that appear hostile to freedom.
Enter Mary LoPinto of Vergennes. Her son Stephen LoPinto, a member of the Class of 2001 at Vergennes Union High School, spent 13 months in Iraq with the Vermont National Guard and the regular Army. Stephen's mother spent sleepless nights wondering about his health and welfare. She often felt helpless in what she could do to keep up the morale of her soldier-son living so far from home.
Enter Soldiers' Angels, an organization based in Pasadena, Calif. Mary discovered the morale-building group in 2002. In short order, it changed her life-and the lives of others-for the better. At last, she felt, she could do something to help her son and other men and women in uniform just like him.
According to LoPinto, "Soldiers' Angels was started by an ordinary mom of an ordinary young man turned hero, Sgt. Brandon Varn. Brandon was deployed in Iraq and has since honorably completed his mission and has returned back to his proud and loving family. He wrote home expressing his concern that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. Being a caring and loving mother, she decided not to allow a situation like that to continue. She contacted a few friends and extended family to ask if they would write to a soldier or two. Within a few months, Soldiers' Angels went from a mother writing a few extra letters to an Internet community with thousands of angels worldwide."
LoPinto started the Soldiers' Angels Vermont chapter to recruit local "angels" to write letters and prepare care packages filled with cookies, crackers, toiletries and more. However, she expressed frustration by a lack of local media interest.
"Angels isn't a political organization," LoPinto said. "It's a humanitarian organization. These fellow Americans deserve our love and support. They are often at the frontlines of freedom. Some many of us under appreciate our military people. But I believe that there are dedicated business owners and individuals here in Addison County who can make a big difference by helping and getting involved with Soldiers' Angels. I hope to hear from them.
"Our mission is to provide aid and comfort to the military and its families, provide immediate response to hard situations, and make sure no soldier feels unloved. We start with letters, care packages, and comfort items to our deployed. We also help their families here at home as requested," LoPinto said.
Through special projects, dedicated teams and individuals supporting the troops, Soldiers' Angels hopes to make a difference in the lives of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guarders.
Helping LoPinto in Vermont is Abigail DuBois, of Vergennes, and several members of the American Legion Post in Vergennes.
"We need volunteers locally," LoPinto said, "and we hope the Addison Eagle can help get out the word."
LoPinto referred to the anonymous poem that is posted on the Solders' Angels web site. Reading it, we thought, might change a heart and a mind-
I was with that which others did not want to be,
I went to where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing of those who gave nothing,
and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness that I feel.
I have seen the face of terror, felt the stinging cold of fear,
And enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.
I have cried pain and hope,
But most of all I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.
At least some day I'll be able to say,
That I was proud what I was, A Soldier."
The Soldiers' Angels web site is a good place to find out more about the group's mission and activities (http://soldiersangels.org). LoPinto also encourages interested readers to call her at 802-324-5194 or e-mail her at email@example.com.